Let us Pray.
Dear God Thank you for gathering all of us in the dwelling of yours and share the good news together. Lord, help your meek and feeble servant and guard his lips to speak only about your words and to share not my words but yours. Bless all your children in the house of God and also give us strength to invite anybody who is still outside.
Recently, the most often question I heard from anybody who knew me was Why church?
Which I translate it as ‘Why do you want to plant a church? When you are not so young and have to give up so many things? And going into the way of taking troubles?
I think I never answered well for that question. I just simply said ‘well, it was God’s call.’ However, honestly there has been more reasons than just God’s call. No, I need to put it this way, it was God’s call, but it was much more than just saying it was God’ call.
Let me start from thinking about how one is going to devote his life to something.
Devoting one’s life requires a lot more than just love doing something. You maybe love doing BBQ but that love doesn’t make you a professional griller or a pit master. It requires more than just love doing it and it requires certain sacrifice of your life and taking some possible danger of failure which is lurking in its way. So, unless you are really, really, really want to do something, people often not devote one’s life into doing something.
Then the question is how you become wanting to do something really really, really, bad? That happens when you saw a glory of doing something. It is like you saw the glory of protecting your country and also protecting your family.
Once you saw the glory of doing these things, cowards turn into warrior and a boy turns into a man. So, in a fair sense we all have seen the glory of doing something, especially mothers who saw the glory of becoming a mother of her children and possibly maybe the same to fathers.
So why I want to plant a church? Yes, I saw the glory of the church. It was huge and beautiful. However, it was very subjective personal experience and I need more than that to decide to devote my life to it. Personal experience is good enough for me to enjoy thinking about it, but I need more than that for really doing the Church.
What I was looking into was historical facts of the church. But not the early Christian Churches, which is the prime model of the church, but it is too remote for me to relate myself to it. I need a good example that I can relate myself easily and what I found was the Korean early Church.
Korean church began only two hundred years ago. Two hundred years before today in Korea was Chosun dynasty. Chosun dynasty is remembered as a splendid cultural time to many Koreans.
During that time Koreans invented their own unique language which is Hangul and also achieved most developed Confucius philosophies and culture. Not only that it was also a time that Koreans developed Buddhist theology to the extreme and that’s why so many western Buddhist monks keep going to Korea to learn about it even today.
However, even though not many Koreans realized it, it was a very dark era too.
I said so because Korea in Chosun dynasty had very unique and brutal slavery system. It was very unique because in Chosun dynasty, Koreans made Koreans slaves for their use. There are many countries which hunted slaves outside of their country, but it is extremely rare which made slaves out of the same race with people of same language and culture.
Yes, Koreans made Koreans their slaves and this slavery system was brutal.
You could buy and sell slaves and also you have right to torture and kill your slaves once you are in the yangban class and master of slaves. Most amazing thing in Korean slavery system is that killing and torturing slaves were justified by highest Confucius metaphysics of those days. Literally this slavery and caste system were backed up by the law, culture, social system and ethical standards so this slavery system was air tight and no chance for breaking was left.
In this society, women had no standing also. Women hardly had a name and they were often called with mundane name sooni, first Sooni, second Sooni, third Sooni and end Sooni or final Sooni according to the order of their birth.
And Christianity came into this Chosun dynasty where slavery was ironclad and that’s the point where I was focusing on.
When Church happened in Korea, something had changed.
First, People in Church stopped doing ancestor worship which was where Confucius philosophy becomes religion, and which was the backbone of the whole culture of Chosun dynasty.
Second, in Church, People didn’t follow Korean Caste system, they called each other as brothers and sisters, whether you are novel class or slave didn’t matter.
Third, for women they began to have very strong roles in the Church, it is no doubt without their devotion, Church wouldn’t work that strong. Also, in church for the first time, women had chances to get real and modern education.
In some Churches we had pastors who used to be slaves and also deacons who used to be their masters. In many cases these deacons who used to be masters of their pastors, showing their respect by carrying brief case of their pastors and became great supporter for their pastors and of course they called their pastors ‘Sir.’
Since Darkness never won the light, the outer world knew what was happening and it was not good for their system, they knew exactly those little Churches soon overturn what they built up for centuries and so it began to hunt down Churches and saints of the churches.
The persecution was cruel and vicious. It is believed that we had tens of thousands of martyrs by the persecution in Chosun dynasty, they killed, tortured and threatened to give up the faith in Jesus Christ. So many Christians died for not giving up what they believed and what they tasted in their Churches; Accepting people as their brothers and sisters, listening to the gospel and worship the Lord could truly set apart Churches from the slavery infested world.
The most extreme case I remember is that there was a man who martyred himself just five days after believing in Jesus.
I am curious what in the world he had seen and experienced in the church, he didn’t give up his faith in Jesus but rather he died for when he only believed five days? Unless he experienced much bigger than his life it cannot be explained; He must have met Jesus, He must had tasted the truth and true reality of how we should live, and he couldn’t give it up.
How is this possible? How people become so devout and devote to the things they have seen, heard and tasted in the Church?
Apostle Paul used interesting analogy of ‘Jesus as Cornerstone’ in his epistle to describe the Church and he was not the first one who used this analogy, it was used in psalm 118, Matthew 21:42. 1 peter 2:6 and acts 4:11 and a lot more. Why this analogy appears in the scripture that often? Maybe, it is that much important, so it must have been used that often.
Anyway, Paul is a little different from the other apostles; he never met Jesus in his living body, but he met Jesus in his glory when he was headed to Damascus to persecute Christians. When Paul met Jesus since the light of the glory of God was so intense, it burnt his eyes blind; Paul met resurrected Jesus in his most powerful image as human could stand.
With this experience, it was very clear to Paul that Jesus was the Lord, Messiah and GOD, yes, he saw the glory of God directly. With this experience his theology naturally becomes to hold very high Christology and he is not shy from expressing it.
So, whenever Paul began to talk about Jesus, we need to be very careful to hear what he is talking about because Paul is talking about Jesus who is God indeed.
In today’s scripture Paul wrote;
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Let’s talk about the cornerstone, what is cornerstone anyway? We know it is the first laid stone of the building and sets the end of the perimeter of the building. Dictionary defines it as “The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.”
Now we can see cornerstone works as a reference point in building a building, every stone should be aligned with it horizontally and vertically.
In Greek, Cornerstone is ἀκρογωνιαῖος (Cornerstone) which is a composite word made out of two words, one is ἄκρον which means the end, extremity and the second is γωνία which means a corner, secret place. So literally it means a corner that defines the end, the perimeter, so everything should be aligned to this and at the same time it is the end of the building.
By its nature if we put stones disregarding this cornerstone then there will be problems, eventually it become zigzag and wall becomes wobbly rather than straight and it would collapse. So, mason pushes and pull stones next to the cornerstone to make it aligns straight and if the stone is bigger than the cornerstone then he would chisel it out to level with the cornerstone. Cornerstone is an absolute standard and a measure to other stones.
Then what it means Jesus as a cornerstone?
First, it means Jesus is with us and among us, whether we realized it or not, Jesus is at the same height with us, eye to eye, and he is united with us, like stone is united to stone in a building.
Second, Jesus is the rule we should follow and by doing so, everything is measured. So what matters in our life is not how nice person you are but how hard you tried to follow Jesus and followed him, because he is the only standard, the word of God presented to us.
Think about what Jesus told when his disciple asked Jesus to let him go and bury his father. What Jesus told him? “Let the dead bury their own dead but you follow me.”
Jesus was not nice sometimes when he was talking about the matter of life and at that time he was very serious, and we should understand to follow Jesus is that serious matter.
Third, following Jesus not only means that we need to do something to follow Jesus but also means that we need to stop where Jesus stops. As I mentioned corner stone in Greek is ἀκρογωνιαῖος (Cornerstone) and it includes the word ἄκρον which means the end, so our action, thoughts and dream ends where Jesus stops, we must not go beyond Jesus, the word of God. If we go beyond than Jesus, we need to be pushed back and if we are bigger than Jesus we need to be chiseled out and leveled with Jesus like a stone is cut off by a mason when it is bigger than the cornerstone.
Following Jesus requires endurance and grits, it’s not easy but if we do so we will make a dwelling of God.
The world outside doesn’t like us to be aligned with Jesus, they want us to be a free curved wall and collapse, but we must have aligned with Jesus straight. That’s why the early church of Korea didn’t comply to the social system of slavery and caste but called all saints as their brothers and sisters, disregarding whether one is slave or women. That’s because Jesus calls us brothers and sisters, so how can anybody be masters to anyone?
Also, that’s why the Korean society afraid of these churches and began persecuting them because they felt the Church will affect all the people of Korea and break the caste system eventually.
Yes, they knew and foresee that every solid would melts into the air and that’s exactly what happened, look, where is that Chosun dynasty now? It’s gone quite long time, they became an old news but where is Korean Church? It is still here and proclaims the word of God to the world.
We must go to where Jesus stand and stops where Jesus stops then we would be being built together to become a dwelling of God in which God resides and where the glory of God lives.
In that point, I believe the Church of Incarnation should be acclaimed today because it followed the way of Jesus by allowing us to plant a church in you.
We are small and have no power, no influence but this church called us brothers and sisters and followed Jesus in its loving embracing arm, I thank God for my brothers and sisters in the Church of Incarnation and pray for you every day.
Often, people take it for granted for a Church plating a Church, but it is not; Go out and ask for space for your ministry to any building management and see what they would say? It is not an easy decision at all.
Unless you believe in Jesus Christ and accept him as your cornerstone, there’s not enough reason to take that inconvenience of planting an alien church in you and allow us to use this facility.
Unless you believe in expanding the kingdom of God is most important goal, you don’t need to plant a Church while you are a Church already.
You did so because you want to be aligned straight with Jesus and you really believe in Jesus.
You did so because you believe that is the way of how we are being built up a Dwelling of GOD and GOD is working in this missional act.
I’m so grateful today that I could proclaim that God is among us today and working with us and we are being built the dwelling of God. I know and you know where our God is, there is his glory and his love. Even if we lose everything but can keep the glory of God and his love we would live but our merciful God is working among us while we have our brothers and sisters at hand.
My brothers and sisters today is a good day not because it is beautiful but because we know God is holding us as we are holding our hands together like stones hold together in a building and we are being built together the dwelling of GOD.
Yes, the glory of God is in here today and we celebrate and praise our God.